Etiquette: Don't let computer glitch spoil holiday memories

For the News-DemocratJanuary 6, 2014 

Q. What fun to have most of the family come home for the holidays! We had a great time together and, if I hadn't been so exhausted, I would have hated to see them leave. No big catastrophes --- just a few spills here and there and a few ruffled feathers over which station to watch on TV.

However, when my husband tried to get into our laptop computer the day after they all left, he found it wasn't working. He and I hadn't been on it for days because the teenagers were taking turns using it to play games in between all their texting on their phones. I'm not sure what happened and no one told us there was a problem. We took it and got it fixed, but we're ready to make a rule that it will be "off limits" the next time the kids visit.

My husband thinks we should ask each teenager what he did to the computer to cause the problem. I don't think that is the proper thing to do. If we had found a piece of broken glassware after they left, (which we've found in the past) or a broken toy, we wouldn't have called to find out who did it. I think this is the same kind of thing. Your opinion, please.

A. I agree with you. It is unfortunate there was a problem with your computer, but to start an investigation into who caused it, would probably not bring forth any answers. After all, computers tend to be temperamental when a new user unfamiliar with it and your settings logs on to it. Just a click of a key can cause it to malfunction and the user will have no idea how or why it happened.

Put the issue behind you and instead, remember all the fun you both had with your family. That is worth more than the cost to repair any computer.

If you choose to institute the new computer rule on their next visit, do so, but do not go into any detail as to why. Perhaps, just say, "It just hasn't been working well lately."

Q. We stayed several nights with some friends while traveling to visit our children, who are scattered across the country. We brought some wine and we wanted to take them out to dinner, but they insisted on barbecuing at home, which was very nice. I have a thank- you note ready to mail to them, but I feel like we need to do something else. My husband says to include a check and tell them to go out to dinner on us. Is that appropriate?

A. A personal check is appropriate for something purchased, not for friendship and hospitality. Therefore, please do not include a check, or cash in your thank-you note to your friends. Have flowers delivered, or an edible arrangement, or include a gift card to a local restaurant or movie theater in the thank-you note.

Q. If a gift receipt was included with a gift that was mailed to me, do I have to notify the giver that I have decided to return the item for something else?

A. Unless it is a piece of clothing that does not fit or a duplicate of another gift, you should return the gift. Therefore, yes, in your thank- you note to the giver, sincerely explain how much you liked and appreciated the gift, but you were had to return the item for a smaller or larger size. If the same item was no longer available in the correct size, then explain what you exchanged it for instead.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427. Or email to

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service